The Zombie infection isn’t just killing your ability to communicate effectively. Along with ruining your ability to truly connect with your colleagues, friends and family…it is destroying your productivity.
Once the zombie infection has reached our brain, it starts to hijack our thinking patterns. The disease causes neurological mutations that divert resources away from our logical, pre-frontal cortex and routes our thinking patterns through the emotionally lead amygdala.
The most obvious symptom that the disease is affecting your productivity is email addiction. You may already be infected. If you are not, then you have definitely seen people who are. They are all around us…there may even be someone siting next to you right now who is displaying the signs and symptoms.
The infected are the ones who cannot begin their day without checking their emails.
You can see hundreds of them in packed train carriages commuting to work. All staring, zombie like, at their smart phones with thumbs verging on cramp by 7:50 am!
Look around you next time you are stationary in your car during the rush hour commute…you’ll see them there too. You may even have been rear-ended by one because they were reading their emails or texting whilst driving in slow moving traffic on the M25!
The person you live with may be infected too. If they cannot make it to the shower without checking their phone… they are infected. If they cannot switch the kettle on before checking their phone…they are infected. If they have to send an email between each bite of toast…they are infected!
The zombie infection works by making us believe that our inbox contains our priorities for the day. Of course, those of us without this disease know the opposite to be true.
“Our inbox is simply a list of other peoples priorities.”
Our email account of choice is simply a list of other people’s requests and priorities. Whilst 150 unread emails can on first glance look both urgent and important, I would argue that the majority are probably neither.
If it really is important, the sender will call you and ask if you got their email! Even then though, it’s not necessarily urgent or important for you (the sender/caller could be badly infected!).
Staring down at a list of 200-plus unread emails makes us feel overwhelmed because the zombie infection is re-routing our thinking patterns away from the pre-frontal cortex. Logically, we know that our day will be much more productive if we start by considering our genuine priorities. When thinking rationally, we know that planning and prioritising is an energy hungry activity best done when we are feeling fresh. But the infection prevents us from thinking this way.
At the start of the day we say to ourselves,
“I’ll just clear a few emails and then I’ll stop and plan my day.”
Only we don’t.
We spend 40 minutes responding to emails as quickly as our little fingers will allow us to. We fire off tasks and requests to our team members, colleagues and suppliers that are poorly considered and confusing. The net result is that for every email we send, five ping straight back with queries and questions.
More speed, less haste, my infected friends!
We look at the clock and see that we’ve been in an email frenzy for 40 minutes. We can feel our brains slowing down as the infection takes an even stronger grip on our brain. Yet we don’t stop and take a break. Instead we tell ourselves,
“I’ll just fire-off a few more, then I’ll make plan!!”
Looking up we see it’s 10:30 and feel as though we’ve achieved absolutely nothing! The infection has broken our will.
But all this is not our fault. The infection has now started to control the neuro-biology within our bodies and is playing havoc with our reward sensors. Every time we see the unread email count drop by one, the zombie infection releases a double- espresso sized shot of Dopamine.
This feel good hormone makes us think we are making genuine progress and being productive. The reality is however that we are being efficient rather than effective. Efficiency is doing things well (think speed, multi-tasking, little waste) where as effectiveness is doing the right things.
Each time we send an email we get a dopamine hit. The more hits we get, the more hits we want. But each time we get a hit; we need a bigger hit to get the same level of gratification. So the addiction grows, the infection’s hold on us becomes even stronger and we continue to believe our inbox is our main priority.
But there is hope. We do not need to accept the modern day, corporate Zombie Armageddon as an inevitability. We can beat the infection and we can prevent ourselves from being infected.
By curing and protecting themselves from this infection, leaders also have the ability to inoculate their entire organisation from the disease.
The rewards are huge and the cure is simple; although it does require commitment and will power. All we have to do is force ourselves to stay away from our smartphones and inboxes until we have planned our day.
We must take the fight to the enemy and go on the “zombie offensive” from the moment we wake up. It is vital that we protect our mental energy and focus at the start of each day, so that we can fight the addiction.
Prioritising is one of the most energy-hungry activities that we ask our pre-frontal cortex to handle. After just a few mental activities (emails), you may not have the energy left to prioritise effectively, if at all.
Using our pre-frontal cortex for something like prioritising is a little like flying one of those toy helicopters you often see in parks. Once the child (or their Dad) has got the helicopter off the ground for the first few times, it will no longer fly as the power is too low. It gets close, rising a few inches, before collapsing back down. The more you try, the less energy there is. Best to re-charge and try again later.
In a similar way, opening Outlook and doing 40 minutes of emailing as soon as you sit at your desk in the morning, uses up the vital brainpower needed for prioritising.
To beat this modern day epidemic, we have to interrupt our current habits and thinking patterns. Those that have successfully fought off this disease have done so by creating a new morning routine that does not begin with emails. These routines typically involve things like:
Printing your calendar so that you can plan without the need to open Outlook.
Finding a quiet location away from your desk to invest 15 minutes in planning your day, every day.
Getting up early to mediate, clear your mind and plan.
A tale of hope…
I was once badly infected by the Zombie disease myself. For years my working life was ruled by my inbox… to the point where I would stand in the shower each day with chest pains, feeling physically sick. Whilst I did not realise it at the time, my productivity nose-dived. My relationships suffered. Life in and out of work lost its edge as stress and tiredness took hold.
But I fought of the disease and it hasn’t come back. I can promise you that if you commit to breaking the email addiction, then you’re productivity will go through the roof, your stress levels will fall through the floor and you’ll nail the elusive work-life balance...whatever that looks like for you.
Find out more…
If you want to know more about how I beat the infection, took control of my life, grew my business and nailed my work-life balance then go to www.ben-morton.com and enter your email with the suffix “PLUS”.
You’ll then receive advance notification and a special “Zombie Slayers Discount” when I launch my new online programme, The Personal Leadership: Ultimate Success (PL:US) Systems, early in 2018.
Ben is a leadership guy.
Helping leaders to become the very best, most authentic version of themselves is what gets him out of bed at 5:15 every morning. Ben believes that when we uncover our own unique leadership identity, we are able to build an incredible business or team, truly inspire those that we have the privilege to lead and live a world class life.
His work as a Performance Coach and Leadership Mentor is based upon a number of core beliefs about work, life and leadership:
Success at work does not have to come at the expense of our health, family and social life.
At it’s most basic, leadership is about delivering results and looking after those we have the privilege and responsibility to lead.
Business and leadership are fundamentally about people and relationships; we should make sure we enjoy the journey.
The best leaders have an insatiable appetite for learning and growth.